29 March 2008


Sometimes you go gallery hopping to a couple dozen galleries and you're still a tad hungry. You may have had some good morsels but you need some vegetables to pull it all together. And then there are the days when you visit a couple galleries and, wow, you're just beautifully sated. Today has been the latter.

Mac had mentioned the "Male" show at White Columns with works from the collection of Vince Aletti. The works were interesting (some for very obvious reasons) and the display was wonderful: in clusters on the various walls, some partially in front of others, some attached to the wall, some resting on a picture rail at waist level. A couple busy panels of small photos, art and/or just plain porny, were in the wall cases near the door.

Though I liked "Male" for the predictable reasons, two of the other shows were also interesting to say nothing of the folks gathered for the book launch of Theft is vision by Bob Nickas. One of the smaller galleries had a collection of "Recent acquisitions, gifts, and works from various exhibitions 1985-2007" from the collection, etc. of Bob Nickas. The installation was complementary to the style of "Male."

The next room had about a dozen photos by Janice Guy. I know her way better as one of the owners of Murray Guy Gallery, one of my favorite art spaces and programs. The photos were done in 1979 and feature the artist looking at her naked self through the lens: revealing and concealing.

I didn't have a lot of gallery time today so I thought I'd stop by Tracy Williams and then come on back home. I get the flyers from Williams but couldn't remember what the show was. I missed the Barbara Bloom show which I'm sure was splendid. The recent catalog of The Barbara Bloom Collection is magnificent and compelling. Now at Tracy Williams is Anna Craycroft's "The Agency of the Orphan." Downstairs is a collection of movie star stills, real and imagined, with Craycroft captions. Upstairs is a gallery with two fountains with child heads spewing water and a gallery of large drawings with a short table and chairs at which you can peruse the catalog. Craycroft investigates the idea of orphan and Orphan, identity in the face of social interaction, etc.

So now I'll go home and try to finish the newsletter or at least the parts that I can do. Then in a few hours I'll go to Spaced gallery to gather with others in memory of Judith Holliday who died in February. One of the great collection developers and bibliographers, though I do recognize it was a true copacetic attachment that we both had to architecture, Ungers, Italy, Rowe, Italian, joy.

And then Carnegie Hall for the Thomas Ades edition of "Making music."

I've been thinking a lot recently about moving toward retirement, mostly because work has just been too much of a drag lately. The dysfunction in the office is rampant in so many ways. At the same time, there have been several new challenges on the professional side: SEI Advisory Group, Joint LC/PCC LRCI/RDA Task Group, SEI instructor, VR cataloging at ARTstor. I imagine I could live happily anywhere, including Alfred, the small college town in upstate New York where the 130-year old family home is. Still, it's days like today with a couple galleries under my belt to great satisfaction (plus a nice little visit to Three Lives & Company bookstore where I found a newly published for the first time early work of Tom Spanbauer, an author I really enjoy) that makes me realize one has to find your way. New York City may drop more of it in your lap or under your feet but I do think I could find my way most anywhere.

24 March 2008

Martha Wilson at Mitchell Algus

Quite a bit of good viewing in the galleries on Saturday but perhaps the best and most surprising was the Martha Wilson show at Mitchell Algus Gallery on West 25th Street. As usual, Mitchell has dug up some interesting art and displays it well, simply but well. The show is of her "Photo/Text Works, 1971-74." Mitchell had to remind me that she was a founder of Franklin Furnace, the great artist book and publication shop. These are so evocative of so much contemporary and later identity work. I especially liked the decorative-arts switch piece in which the plain woman is in the fancy frame and the dressed-to-the-nines woman is in the plain frame. Bits of narrative on a bunch of the pieces.

Among the other shows I visited: Matthew Buckingham, at Murray Guy (one film with text in French on Le Prince and early moving-image camera; other text and image video on Charlotte Wolff, psychologist and writer on homosexuality); Marc Swanson: the Saint at large, at Bellwether Gallery (yes, as in the disco but the connection is pretty postmodern); Marcel Dzama, at Zwirner (yes, the piano music in the video installation was live); Subodh Gupta's "1 KG war" (a kilo of gold with "war" engraved), at Jack Shainman; Robert Gober, at Matthew Marks (in the small gallery on 21st and the smaller gallery on 22nd); Meg Webster, at Paula Cooper on 23rd Street (just five or six works but powerful); Guerra de la Paz, at Daneyal Mahmood (I really like their work though this wasn't my favorite example, and it closed on Saturday).

11 March 2008

weird, bumpy hillocks

I should be looking out the window because I'm sitting in the Phoenix airport on my way to San Diego for the VRA conference. I borrowed a staff MacBook so I can maybe keep up with email while I'm away. My Macintosh Performa at home still struggles on (I refuse to say soldier on, as the Times seems to say a lot) and I haven't fully decided whether to go lap- or desktop though the idea of laptop is certainly attractive.

So what's outside the window? The Phoenix Skyharbor Airport is quite close to downtown. You can see several downtown skyscrapers but you can also see some red hillocks that look rather than those drip sandcastles that are such fun to make when the sand is fine. For some reason, my Orbitz reservation didn't include seat assignments so I was in a middle seat. The guy next to me kept the shade up and was mostly out of the way but I certainly couldn't study the landscape as I usually would. My flight home is red-eye so that will be minimal too.

Still, those bumpy hillocks are of that wonderful red stone that doesn't show up so much in New York State. At least the dry variety doesn't. My favorite red rock venue is still Caprock Canyons which I visited totally unawares on my way between Amarillo and Fort Worth. I was there mostly alone and not worried about scorpions or rattlesnakes. The sky was bright and clear, the temperature was gentle. The canyons are at the break between the high and low plains. You're just driving along on the flats and, all of a sudden, the land drops a thousand feet or something. It's really incredible. That was just part of a wonderful trip overall: coming home from SAH in Albuquerque; stayed overnight in Canyon and visited the museum there, then Palo Duro Canyon, then did a stair pattern from county seat to county seat. Just me and my little gray-violet Isuzu pickup. It was pretty splendid.

But back to Phoenix ... as we came in toward the airport, I was reading The Middle Sea and looking over the shoulder of my neighbor out the window. Once when I looked up, there was that wonderful view of the city all stretching stretching and then these incredible mountains rising out of nowhere. Nature is so weird.

08 March 2008

Judith Holliday

I just signed on to gmail and as I glanced at the inbox, there was a notice that Judith Holliday's birthday is coming up. Well, this year, it will be bittersweet because Judith died last month. I had known Judith since the late 1960s when I was at Cornell, doing my alternative service. It was folks like her and Chris Huemer and Pat Sullivan that helped me realize that the art historical course (BA to MA to PhD) that I was on was not my natural course.

I returned to grad school in 1971 and we (Dorothy and I) took a trip back to Ithaca to see family and friends there. Probably spring break in 1973. We got back to Cleveland and there was a party/reception for a candidate for a position in the art history department. The competition and whatnot at the party stood in such contrast to the library folks that we'd talked to in Ithaca. I can't remember if we saw Judith on that particular trip, but I do know that I went to the library school the very next day and started the application process. I started library school as I finished my art history master's.

A year later, having finished my M.A. and well along in my M.S. in L.S., I accepted a job at the University of Pittsburgh. The Frick Fine Arts Library there is in a 1960s Italianate palazzo. Almost six years later, the job of art cataloger was open at Cornell since Pat Sullivan had moved over to the Fine Arts Library to be assistant librarian under Judith. It was wonderful to be back with Judith and Pat and in Ithaca.

Judith had lived in Rome for a while and really worked with me on my Italian pronunciation. It must have been hard on her when I'd pronounce Chigi as "chee gie" (soft ch, hard g) when it should be the other way around. With her help and several trips to Italy, I can usually say an Italian word pretty well these days. Now if I could just put a sentence together.

Judith was a consummate bibliographer, particularly in architecture. The 1980s were a time of interesting ferment in architectural output and criticism. Ungers and Rowe were at Cornell. Judith and I had many conversations about architecture, and looked at lots of books together. While I've never had a job as selector, I really enjoyed telling Judith about little treasures I discovered one place or another.

One of my favorite Judith stories is, however, during an ARLIS/NA conference, 1978 I think, in New York City. There was a panel of art book publishers. During the question period, Judith asked the Abrams guy why they didn't put the dates in books. He replied something about not wanting the book to seem stale on the bookstore table or coffee table when you gave it to someone as a Christmas gift. He didn't realize how much trouble it made for librarians and folks trying to cite the item. Soon thereafter, Abrams started putting the date on the verso of the title page and they still do it, even though they've been bought and sold a couple times (at least) since then.

So here's to Judith on what would have been her 70th birthday!

03 March 2008

Open Source ILS

(I'm amazed that there has not been a great hallelujah raised because of this proposal. Or maybe the migration cobwebs around here are obscuring the cheers!?)

To the DLF [apologies for duplicates received on this or other lists]

The Duke University Libraries are preparing a proposal for the Mellon Foundation to convene the academic library community to design an open source Integrated Library System (ILS). We are not focused on developing an actual system at this stage, but rather blue-skying on the elements that academic libraries need in such a system and creating a blueprint. Right now, we are trying to spread the word about this project and find out if others are interested in the idea.

We feel that software companies have not designed Integrated Library Systems that meet the needs of academic libraries, and we don’t think those companies are likely to meet libraries’ needs in the future by making incremental changes to their products. Consequently, academic libraries are devoting significant time and resources to try to overcome the inadequacies of the expensive ILS products they have purchased. Frustrated with current systems, library users are abandoning the ILS and thereby giving up access to the high quality scholarly resources libraries make available.

Our project would define an ILS centered on meeting the needs of modern academic libraries and their users in a way that is open, flexible, and modifiable as needs change. The design document would provide a template to inform open source ILS development efforts, to guide future ILS implementations, and to influence current ILS vendor products. We would use the grant to fund a series of planning meetings, with broad participation in some of those meetings and a smaller, core group of schools developing the actual design requirements document.

At this stage, we're seeking feedback on our ideas and finding out who might be interested in participating, prior to our formal submission of the proposal to the Mellon Foundation in early March. We would greatly appreciate your responses to the following questions.

1) Does designing an open source ILS seem like something worth exploring for academic libraries?

2) Given the information above about the proposed project, is your institution interested in:

-- staying informed of our progress?

-- contributing time and effort to the planning process, even if only through the first or second workshops?

-- possibly being one of the core schools that participates throughout the full planning and writing process

3) If you have any initial feedback on our ideas, we would love to hear it!

**Please email us at openlib@duke.edu**

Thank you for your interest and considering this opportunity to work with us on this project. If your answer is yes to number two above, we will be contacting you to further explore participation. **Please send your reply to openlib@duke.edu**

Jean Ferguson
Reference Librarian, Coordinator of Virtual Reference
Duke University
Perkins Library, Box 90175
Durham, NC 27708

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